Congratulations to the 2019 VenuesNow Generation Next Award recipents. Generation Next is open to any individual 35 years or under who is currently working or is affiliated with the venue/facility side of the live entertainment business.

Winners of the Generation Next Awards are featured in the June issue of VenuesNow. Recipents are voted on by subscribers, with the exception of the “Social Winner,” which was voted on by the industry at large.

2019 Generation Next winners:

Meghan Blood

Director of marketing, BOK Center

Meghan played a key role in BOK Center’s 10-year anniversary celebration in 2018. Through Meghan’s vision and leadership, the celebration included the execution of regional and national marketing campaigns behind the venue’s “10 For 10” Concert Series, which consisted of 12 sold-out shows, 180,000+ tickets sold, $22,000,000+ in gross ticket sales, three tour kickoffs and two multinight shows. Meghan was also tasked with creating a commemorative bottle of wine, where she collaborated with a private vineyard in Southern California. The bottles were complete with custom BOK Center labels and given to the venue’s clients, agents, promoters, managers and artists. Furthermore, Meghan was responsible for managing the composition and launch of multiple series designs, which included a poster series for the “10 For 10” shows and a series of anniversary trade ads. Her most impressive project was a 150-page coffee table book that highlighted the venue’s 10-year history. The result was a sleek design that included customized names of people that have played a significant role in the success of the building. Lastly, Meghan facilitated media coverage of BOK Center’s 2018 successes and helped tell the story of how the arena evolved into a must play venue over the past 10 years. These media components included BOK Center’s feature on the cover of VenuesNow with a spotlight article from Linda Deckard and a Backstage Pass write-up from Dave Brooks in Billboard. Meghan was truly an integral part of BOK Center’s success in 2018 and accomplished some of the top marketing and PR initiatives that the industry has ever seen.

Brittanie Delava
Director of touring, AEG Presents
Brittanie has led the AEG club and theater department to its busiest year yet in 2018, producing 250+ shows in over 50 clubs, theaters and arenas. Brittanie continues to provide strong leadership skills to the AEG club and theater buyers and maintains great relationships with agents and managers.

Joe Dolan

Assistant general manager, Bon Secours Wellness Arena
As assistant general manager of Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Joe Dolan oversees marketing, box office, and event services departments, and is instrumental in the overall management of the arena. With Joe’s ability to generate revenue through booking and identifying nontraditional revenue sources, the Bon Secours Wellness Arena will have its most profitable year since opening in 1998. Joe was instrumental in creating a master plan for interior and exterior renovations of the arena and will help execute the plans in the near future.
David Garcia
Vice president of guest experience, Atlanta Hawks and State Farm Arena
David Garcia believes that a world-class guest experience starts with a strong focus on creating a positive employee experience. While State Farm Arena was undergoing the second-largest transformation in NBA history, Garcia led a corresponding transformation of the employee experience. Starting with the recruiting process, Garcia brought the innovative concept of creating candidate experiences that wow. Hosting a one-of-a-kind interview crawl that ended on a Ferris wheel and interviewing in the Georgia Aquarium with whale sharks overhead, these interview days set the stage for what State Farm Arena staff is hired to do: create memorable experiences. In partnership with other departments, the Hawks hired 1,000 new part-time employees and trained/retrained 1,500 employees prior to the opening of the arena. Garcia also led the push for higher wages for all part-time staff, including those that work for third-party partners. Garcia has been instrumental in establishing a voice-of-the-fan program with the Hawks, bringing data and customer feedback to the forefront of decision making. Garcia created an after-action review where organizational leaders meet to identify and discuss opportunities for continuous improvement. Hawks fans have responded positively to the changes, ranking the overall experience with staff at 9.1/10. Garcia was influential in the Hawks’ adoption of Fan-Friendly pricing, making the arena the first NBA venue to adopt the new concessions pricing strategy. In the most recent season ticket member survey, the Hawks ranked No. 1 in the NBA for F&B.

Corey Margolis

General manager, Angel of the Winds Arena (Spectra)
Corey Margolis has been an exceptional member of the Spectra team since he started in Dawson Creek, British Columbia, at the Encana Events Centre as an event manager. His dedication to making every employee, promoter and guest experience better each day, as well as his mindset for creating operational efficiencies, has led him to excel in his career.  Corey recently was the assistant general manager for Spectra at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario, where he spent two years increasing bookings for the facility. In addition, he assisted in booking different small venues in the city to develop the touring music landscape of the area. In July of 2018 and at only 29 years old, Corey was promoted to general manager for Spectra at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash. He has worked diligently to position the 10,000-seat arena for success as the major Seattle arena goes into a 2+ year closure, as the area is one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. The increase in bookings and the new relationships he has forged in the community have been instrumental in the continued success for the building and for Spectra.Corey is not only a future leader and trendsetter for the industry, but a current leader, which is evident by all he has accomplished so far.

Mike Melisi

General manager, Aramark at Fenway Park (Social Winner)
A Boston native and lifelong Red Sox fan, Mike Melisi leads Aramark’s team at iconic Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Mike first joined Aramark’s team at Fenway Park as an intern while studying at Boston University. After serving in various roles, including assistant controller and controller, Mike was named general manager, Aramark at Fenway Park, in 2017. Success quickly followed! During his first full season as GM (2018), the Red Sox won their ninth World Series. Mike is the consummate partner, working closely with the Red Sox to continually innovate the fan experience at America’s Most Beloved Ballpark with menu offerings that balance modern New England fare (Lobster BLT) with the traditional tastes of classic ballpark fare (Fenway Frank). Under Mike’s leadership, last year’s F&B per cap (fan spending) rose over prior year. As Aramark’s GM at one of sports’ pre-eminent venues and having established himself as a trusted leader, reliable partner, respected mentor and true team player, Mike is undoubtedly one of the industry’s rising stars and has a bright future ahead of him. Outside of work, Mike is deeply involved in the community. Mike has run seven Boston Marathons, raising over $100K to benefit the Red Sox Foundation. Additionally, Mike organizes and leads many of Aramark’s community service efforts in Boston, which includes working with the Red Sox Foundation to support such causes as refurbishing schools, supporting local food banks and donating Thanksgiving meals to the city of Boston.

Lisa Niess

Marketing and communications manager, U.S. Bank Stadium
Since the opening of U.S. Bank Stadium, Lisa has led the all communications and marketing of the award-winning facility. Her strong relationships with the local media, industry stakeholders as well as the public have made her a trusted “go to” executive. In 2018, U.S. Bank Stadium hosted Super Bowl LII. While managing her regular duties she also ran point on media operations and launched, in partnership with the NFL, “Rush 2 Recycle.” This zero-waste sustainability program not only had a huge media impact but received numerous awards and accolades. In 2018 she created and executed the marketing and communications plans for the first U.S. Bank Stadium Basketball Classic, a two-day basketball event in preparation for the Final Four. This was after supporting our most successful concert year, with stops by Kenny Chesney, Jay Z and Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. While leading the daily oversight of the marketing and communications team, Lisa also finds the time to constantly drive revenue through marketing for all of our clients’ events as well as other U.S. Bank Stadium initiatives such as our Tour Program. Additionally, in 2018, she oversaw the revamp launch of the stadium’s website, building the stadium’s Insider Club to over 300,000 participants and month over month growth in our social media platforms. Lisa is a valuable member of our management team and her impact can be seen and felt by the millions of patrons that have attended events or heard about U.S. Bank Stadium.

Michael Owens

Assistant general manager, Chesapeake Energy Arena (SMG)
In his role as assistant general manager of Chesapeake Arena, home of the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder, Owens oversees the booking, marketing and ticketing departments for the venue, and is the primary booking contact for the 18,203-seat arena. In the first quarter of 2019, the building has already realized a 47% increase in concert ticket sales over the entire previous year, and is expecting to see 20% more concerts and events through the remainder of the year. Owens and his team are gaining industry praise for their innovative approach to creating unforgettable arena experiences for artists and crews. Their elaborate backstage hospitality and artist gifts have included a personalized Stihl chainsaw for Blake Shelton at his tour opener and hometown show in February, custom-written and illustrated children’s books for pop artist Pink’s kids and a reimagined crew experience that includes an in-house barber, manicurists/pedicurists, unique culinary experiences and live dinner music in backstage catering. Owens has a knack for cultivating industry relationships, which has led to record-breaking years of bookings in every venue he has programmed since beginning his career in 2009. Owens has garnered recognition as a recipient and finalist for numerous industry awards, including Rising Star (Pollstar, 2018), 30Under30 (IAVM, 2015), Hall of Headlines (Venues Today, 2015) and Rookie of the Year (IEBA, 2013 and 2014).

Andrew Saunders

Senior talent buyer, Staples Center and Microsoft Theater (Readers’ Choice)
Andrew has stepped up in a big way this year. In his first year at Microsoft Theater he has excelled, selling out shows in genres that the venue doesn’t have much of a history in like hip-hop and podcasts. In addition, he recently joined the booking team for Staples Center due to his strong performance at the theater. He’s very hungry and proactive, and on top of that a great guy. He serves in IEBA’s Young Professional Steering Committee, assisting to program the annual conference and create initiatives designed to increase membership and participation in the Young Professionals category.

Keller Taylor

District general manager, Spectra Venue Management – Budweiser Events Center
Keller Taylor embodies the traits that every GM should strive to possess, flawlessly leading not just his own venue (Budweiser Events Center) but overseeing several Spectra venues throughout the Midwest region. For the amount of time Keller puts into the various accounts he serves as the DGM working both satellite and on-site at the other locations, he never misses a beat when it comes to leading his staff back home and positioning them and the building as a whole for success. It is because of Keller’s leadership that the BEC has continuously improved in financial categories across the board year after year, meeting and exceeding budgetary benchmarks, and the venue is on the radar of promoters and agents nationwide. If his work-related commitments weren’t enough, he’s a stellar citizen of Loveland and the Northern Colorado region, holding numerous positions on various boards and committees ensuring that his impact reaches far outside the Budweiser Events Center walls. He was instrumental in the $3.25 million invested into the Budweiser Events Center in 2018 for upgrades and fan experience enhancements including building wide Wi-Fi, LED sport lights, a new Ice Chiller system and more. In addition Keller is the point person for the county on a major master plan program to renovate the entire Ranch Campus including Budweiser Events Center here in Loveland in the coming years.